Greetings Redditors, This is Sanjay and Greg from E3D-Online- a 3D Printing startup based in the UK which is determined to change the future of manufacturing. We’ve created a new type of 3D printer which lets you make parts that combine multiple materials into a single print, as well as use a precision milling cutting head to achieve much more precise parts with much smoother surfaces. This works by having a printer that can pick up and put down tool-heads from a dock at the back of the machine. This lets you have a few tool heads loaded with printing material, and a tool head loaded with a precision milling cutter.

We’ve recently released this as ‘ASMBL’ (Additive Subtractive Manufacturing by Layer) for our ToolChanger & Motion System, which in our opinion represents one of the biggest advancements in FDM 3D Printing technology in the last 10 years.

We're just a small team from the UK who are super passionate about 3D Printing and developing its tech as much as possible for the rest of the world to enjoy, so naturally the ToolChanger is fully open source.

Here's Sanjay talking about the tech in its early state back in 2018.

Here's the latest version of the ToolChanger with our ASMBL upgrade.


Ask us anything.

Comments: 506 • Responses: 18  • Date: 

yahel14267 karma

  1. Have you watched Sanjay and Craig? That's the first thing I thought about when I read your names
  2. what's your favorite ice cream flavor?
  3. How does it feel to do something so huge that would probably change an industry?

SanjayM50 karma

  1. I'd never heard of it until now!
  2. Salted Caramel
  3. Those are big words! I hope we do manage to initiate a decent amount of change, but there's a lot of work left to go yet. We're working with other companies who are interested in taking the concepts proven in the toolchanger and ASMBL and making systems that are more turn-key and ready to work out of the box. Once people can get out there and buy something that spits out machined quality parts with the design-freedom and ease of use of a 3D printer then we'll have made a real difference.

colintrax99 karma

Apologies if this has been answered elsewhere, but currently 3d printers use PEI sheets or glass beds to build on. Some materials struggle to stick enough to prevent warping. What is the plan to hold material down with subtractive processes?

NorthStarZero35 karma

That's an excellent question. Workholding in subtractive processes is a real problem.

A quick illustration from personal experience:

I have an XCarve, which is a decent hobby-grade CNC gantry router. When working in wood, the limit of the machine is more-or-less the power limit of the stepper motors used to move it, so I can do 1" depth of cut at 80 in/min generally without issue.

My clamping system is a series of plastic strap clamps held down by M8 (maybe M6?) thumbscrews. The strap clamps aren't super rigid, so they function more like springs that the thumbscrews preload.

No wood project has ever moved when clamped this way.

Now cutting aluminum in this machine is sketchy, partially because the machine isn't really rigid enough to keep from chattering, and partially because there are challenges with how gummy aluminum is in an environment where you can't use flood coolant. I had been able to make 0.007" cuts at 30 in/min with a specific cutter (so I can cut shapes from 1/8" plate) but it's slow going. I found a cutter specifically designed to work in gantry routers with aluminum, tried a 0.063" DOC at 40 in/min, and promptly ripped the workpiece out of the clamps.

The clamping force behind those clamps was no joke, but it wasn't enough to handle the cutting forces of an extra 0.056" - roughly the thickness of 14 human hairs - in aluminum. With a lever arm of 1/8" off the table.

And I guarantee that the adherence force between a 3D print and a platen is nowhere near what my clamps were.

This is going to be a real problem.

SanjayM48 karma

It's really not a problem - as /u/gardaz points out, the depth of cut and the stepover are a tiny fraction of traditional CNC, therefore your chip-load and tool deflection forces are also miniscule.

boraca30 karma

/u/SanjayM What hair products do you use? What is your styling routine? How did you arrive at such optimal hair shape to become an inspiration for Hemera cooling?

SanjayM68 karma

My hair style was actually derived from CFD modelling to ensure that my head dissipates heat effectively while directing convected airflow in a convenient direction.

boraca7 karma

Do you style it manually or with CNC? Or is that a trade secret?

Which solution would you recommend for mounting a Hemera on a MK3S? I've heard that the official models from E3D on Thingiverse are problematic. Did you test any others, like the Hemera Odyssey?

SanjayM14 karma

There's a large number of hair strands to arrange, but luckily the payload mass of a hair is very low, which means that pick-and-place tech can rapidly move each strand into place. I'm currently running a Fanuc Delta robot

0nn027 karma

I really like the way the Mosquito and Dragon hotends fix the heating block and make nozzle changes easier.

Does E3D have plans to release a V7 hotend, and if so, will it incorporate some kind of adaptation which will allow for easier nozzle changes?

SanjayM28 karma

It probably won't look/work quite like you described or imagine, but I think people in the 3D printing world are going to be very very happy. ;)

thedelicatesnowflake2 karma

Any rough timeline? (if we are talking few months, year or even more)

SanjayM9 karma

Probably more than a year unfortunately.

PhilosophyDLaw22 karma

Which sectors will rely heavily on 3D-Printing in the future? I imagine there must be sectors no one really thinks about, but will profit inevitably from 3D-Printing

SanjayM24 karma

Look to the present to be inspired about the future!

Hearing aids, Invisalign dental braces, and a lot of other dental appliances rely heavily on 3D printing today.

In these applications mass-customisation is hugely valuable, and the pricing model means that they aren't very price sensitive.

As we lower the cost of making useful 3D printed parts from strong engineering plastics we're going to see a huge range of applications crop up. Anything that benefits from individual part customisation will be a target, and the first to come along are going to be the less price sensitive.

We're starting to see the first shoes come along with customised fit - now think about things like sports braces/supports for slightly injured joints etc.

Insanity68218 karma

For Sanjay: Was the process of going from a teacher to the director of an engineering company a steep learning curve? Any thoughts on it you’d like to share?

SanjayM38 karma

Oh man, yes, very steep.

I am very lucky to have had excellent co-founders in David and Josh who do a great job of looking after the majority of the 'businessy' aspects.

I think the main thing to bear in mind is that we never tried to start a hotend company, we just happened to make a great hotend, then they started selling. It was only once the hotend side of things was making enough to sustain us that we jumped ship, quit our job and went onto running E3D full time.

The main piece of advice is that the product comes first, once you know what that is, and if it's good enough, then a business model and customers kinda fall into place. Making a great product that people want to buy should be the first priority of any hardware business.

PhilosophyDLaw10 karma

What are current obstacles of 3D-Printing, in your opinion? where does it need innovation/revolution/improvement before it can be used in a much broader sense?

SanjayM10 karma

I think the biggest barriers to getting FDM type printers to more people and allowing them to do more useful practical things with them aren't really super flashy tech aspects.

We need to make printers easier to use, not something that you need to read tonnes of online info and watch hours of youtube guides to get great prints. The machines need to get smarter at self calibrating, self diagnosing, and they need to be easier to use in general. Things like material loading, ensuring the bed is level, making it easier to change nozzle sizes etc.

We also need to make great printers that do all the above at a much lower price point. There is no fundamental technical reason why a machine that has all the features and capability of a Prusa MK3S or an Ultimaker etc could not be made for the price of an Ender3 or less. This will require scale, new manufacturing processes and a lot of smart design, but I really think it can be done.

veidumeidu7 karma

When will you restock the Hemeras?

SanjayM11 karma

As soon as we can make them at scale and be very very sure that they are perfect. This will take a while, as testing extruders means running them for weeks under accelerated wear life conditions. This is slow, but necessary.

bandanam4n5 karma

What's the zaniest idea that you came up with but never implemented/released, for whatever reason?

SanjayM12 karma

Color-mixing hotend for sure!

There are a few hotends out there which accept two filaments and have a single nozzle, but if you put black in one side and white in the other you don't get grey, you get an effect like stripey toothpaste where one side of the extrudate is black and one side is white.

We built a few prototypes of a system that mixed the two materials being fed in into a homogeneous melt. This is super interesting not just for colour, but for mixing the properties of materials. There are a lot of polymers that are miscible and can be blended with each other but have vastly different properties. So you might have a very soft material and a very rigid one, and by mixing them together you could get any level of softness or rigidity you wanted, on command.

KingOfTheKatz3 karma

Are you hiring? :)

SanjayM5 karma

Yes! Always. Send a CV to [email protected]  We're currently looking for a machinist, customer service agents, and we're always on the lookout for talented engineers.

sufferforscience3 karma

These are both on a theme of how improvements in printing tech can help us deal with structural weakness in 3D printed parts:

  1. Any chance you will make a tool for ToolChanger that allow us to do print with embedded continuous fiber? Is doing something like this patent encumbered?
  2. Have you seen/considered a printer design where layers are shells surrounding an x or y-axis that rotates? I.e. parts are started from a core rod rotates and you build out layers from there in concentric rings. Probably this seems off the wall, but using this approach could eliminate layer adhesion anisotropy weakness of parts.

SanjayM4 karma

  1. Very cool, would love to, would make really good sense to combine with toolchanging and subtractive. Totally patent encumbered and no way I can see for us to be able to make something like this.
  2. Yes! I call it an 'additive lathe', I believe Rory who heads up one of our engineering teams here had a design for a trunion table type A/B axis. It's not been built yet, but it's very very cool. Software will need to take big leaps forward in order to actually take advantage of all the possibilities this has to offer.

amagicalwizard2 karma

Hi, I'm a UK engineering student with an interest in 3D printing. I hope these 2 questions are ok.

Are there any special fluid behaviours that you need to account for in your nozzle geometry, if so what are they and how do they factor into the design?

Secondly from a manufacturing perspective how is a nozzle made in a time-efficient manner? (Tooling, stages etc)

Thank you and keep up the great work!

SanjayM2 karma

Polymer melt flows are quite viscous and also have special viscoelastic behaviours (think molten cheese) that other more Newtonian fluids (think water) don't.

This means we need to get plastic through the nozzle without pressurising it too much or it tends to 'spring back' and cause something called 'die swell', which is often asymmetric and can cause plastic to exit the nozzle kinda wonky especially when there are overhangs and bridges involved.

For manufacturing we use the same kind of lathes Swiss watch parts are made in. These 'sliding head' lathes hold and move the material quite differently to conventional lathes, which allows much higher precision and higher material removal rates. This is especially important as small diameter holes and great surface finishes are critical features of a 3D printer nozzle.

Papainti2 karma

Forward 20 years, which is your biggest envision for 3D Printing?

SanjayM5 karma

Putting the power of invention and creation in the hands of everyone. I don't know if printers will be in every home, or how much marketshare 3DP will take from current manufacturing processes, etc. What I do know, and what I think will actually be the most underrated and impactful change is that if you have an idea for a product, and thing, a solution to a problem etc you won't need £100,000 in capital to develop it. With around £100 you will be able to get a system that makes awesome useful parts.

Everyone who wants to create and invent will be enabled. The number of kids who will be introduced to making and designing stuff at an early age - going on to become engineers and entrepreneurs will increase by a huge amount.

DarquessSC22 karma

Is there much startup 'infrastructure' for want of a better word in the UK? How do you imagine the experience of building a startup in the UK compares to say Silicon Valley?

SanjayM3 karma

Interesting question. Honestly we wouldn't know - we never took any funding or debt and grew our company organically from profits so we never really bumped into the startup funding cycle world. However from what I hear the setup is actually very good here with a lot of VCs and angel types around ready to fund promising companies.

UnicodeScreenshots2 karma

I have had an E3D-V6 on my a8 for a couple years now. My question is this, how did you come up with idea for the original E3D hotend design?

Also, have knockoffs been as much of a problem for the Hemera as they were for V6?

SanjayM5 karma

Funnily enough the reason we started making all metal hotends was because we were broke ass students who couldn't afford to buy bars of PEEK and PTFE to machine the types of hotend that were status quo at the time.

Knowing nothing we tried making a hotend out of just metal, and quickly found that the 'cold' side of the hotend would get very hot and plastic would melt prematurely, blocking the whole thing up completely.

From there we started adding fans and heatsinks to cool the cold side, which worked, but plastic would still jam up in our long tubular heatbreaks. Then we figured out that some stainless steels are dramatically less thermally conductive than normal steels. This let us shorten the heatbreak without increasing the amount of heat get being sent to the cold side, with a very short heatbreak plastic has little opportunity to stick to the walls, and we had our first working hotend.

They were hacky and huge chunks of aluminium, brass and steel, but they worked. The real aha moment came when we figured out we could make an efficient heatsink on a CNC lathe instead of using off the shelf electronics heatsinks. This let us make a small (relatively!) hotend that was also easy to mount and use in existing extruders out there. This formed the basis of the E3D-v4 hotend which was our first mass-produced hotend that actually sold well.

All of this dev work is recorded in a few reprap-forums threads that you can go back and read if you're really interested!

nitonitonii1 karma

How do you think that costs of 3D printing can be reduced?

Is it possible for it to use more recicled plastics?

Can we use change our everyday plastics to a kind that can be recicled into printing later?

SanjayM2 karma

The costs of materials is probably one of the smallest cost drivers in getting a printed part. Most of the money you pay is going into machine amortisation and operator cost.

We need to make machines cheaper, and I don't think we are far off being able to buy a good printer for $100 off amazon. If we can also make printers easier to use and more reliable, therefore requiring little to no operator interaction then we can remove that cost too.